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Heroin and Opioid Abuse – A Deadly Epidemic
Pennsylvania is in the grips of a drug abuse and overdose epidemic the likes of which has never been seen. Authorities point to the overprescribing of opioid drugs as the cause of so many overdoses and addictions, many of which have led to the use of cheap yet powerful heroin.
According a recent report by the Drug Enforcement Administration, nearly 3,400 drug-related overdose deaths were reported in Pennsylvania in 2015, an increase of more than 23% over 2014. In approximately four out of five of those deaths, the presence of heroin or at least one opioid was reported.
Nearly half of all young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin, showing some proof to the research that pain medication may actually open the door to heroin use. The end result is a crisis that affects all Pennsylvanians – a growing and deadly epidemic that must be addressed.
In July 2014, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a bipartisan legislative agency, began a series of statewide public hearings to examine the increasing use of heroin and opioids in rural Pennsylvania.
The hearings have also resulted in action by the Senate to address this issue, and additional legislative measures will be introduced in the near future.
The Senate also passed and sent to the House Senate Bill 1202 which requires continuing medical education training for prescribers in pain management and dispensing and prescribing practices of opioids.
While Harrisburg will not have all the answers, the Legislature can provide valuable resources and mandate changes that will help communities combat heroin and opioids.
Click here for details about the package of bills currently being considered to address this crisis.
One thing has become clear in the fight to stop deaths due to heroin and opioid abuse. We must find ways for addicts to receive treatment that helps them recover. That is a significant challenge because the demand for treatment beds has outpaced funding and resources. Nationally, funding is available to provide help to only one of every 10 people who need treatment. Approximately 80 percent of people who go to the emergency room for an overdose receive no follow-up care, and as a result, many relapse.
Recognizing this critical need, the General Assembly included $15 million in this year’s state budget to combat heroin and opioid addiction, including funds for emergency addiction treatment and behavioral health services.
Money isn’t the only answer to this multi-faceted crisis. But ultimately, treatment costs are going to be cheaper than the incarceration costs – and more importantly -- they can save lives.
Nearly 3,400 Pennsylvanians died of a drug overdose in 2015.
On average, at least seven Pennsylvanians are dying every day from overdoses—now the lead cause of accidental death.
One in 10 young adults between ages 18 and 25 have used prescription drugs non-medically in the past year. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of Pennsylvanians who have overdosed on heroin rose 23 percent.
Approximately 80 percent of heroin addicts can trace their addiction back to prescription opioids.
Fatal overdoses in Pennsylvania increased 14 fold between 1979 and 2014.
PA was ninth in the country in drug overdose deaths last year, with heroin the most common drug identified in fatal-overdose victims.
Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of drug overdose deaths among young men.
Drug overdose deaths now surpass car accident deaths in 36 states.
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2016 © Senate of Pennsylvania
Senate Box 203021
170 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
FAX: (717) 787-6088
TTY: (877) 659-4483
22045 Route 6
Warren, PA 16365-7952
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Butler, PA 16001
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Oil City, PA 16301
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